Lexus ES redesign goes sportier with F Sport edition
Editor's note: The Lexus ES sits on the Toyota New Global Architecture platform. The name of the platform was misstated in an earlier version of this story.
BEIJING -- Lexus is so confident in the performance chops of the redesigned ES sedan that it is giving the remake of one of its frumpiest nameplates an F Sport version for the first time.
Long a sensible choice of the over-60 set, the ES now moves to a new modular platform with a lower center of gravity and sportier handling. The platform is a Lexus derivative of the Toyota New Global Architecture that underpins the latest Toyota Camry and Avalon sedans.
The new front-wheel-drive platform provides crisper driving dynamics in the latest Camry and Avalon, and Lexus is banking that the premium spinoff will produce a repeat performance in the brand's volume sedan.
Lexus unveiled the 2019 Lexus ES, which goes on sale in September, at the Beijing auto show Wednesday. Toyota Motor Corp.'s luxury marque said the car's latest iteration will be lower, wider, longer than the outgoing version to "reflect newfound performance capabilities."
Lexus aims to stoke enthusiasm for the nameplate by offering an F Sport edition equipped with a rear spoiler, adaptive variable suspension, an additional performance-geared drive mode and sound enhancement for a more spirited engine rumble.
The ES F Sport also gets special badging and new metallic cabin trim.
"The engineering team led by Yasuhiro Sakakibara had one clear goal when it came to the ES: transform the image," Lexus said in a statement. "That meant turning a sedan known primarily for comfort and quietness into one that is equally capable of delivering class-leading handling and power that you can feel and hear."
The ES comes in two powertrain variants.
The ES 350 gets a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with an updated fuel injection system mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. It delivers 302 hp, up 34 hp from the previous generation.
The ES 300h is a fourth-generation hybrid that combines a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor and nickel metal hydride battery for 215 hp.
Outside, designers aimed to give the car a planted, forward-leaning look more befitting the livelier image Lexus is pitching. It gets a fast roofline, lower stance and sleek aerodynamics.
The clean and chiseled rear has wraparound LED taillamps. Up front, two massive maws on are offer: one with radiating vertical bars, the other with a blacked-out L-shaped pattern.
The brand's suite of safety features, called Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, comes standard on all versions. Updated features include the pre-crash collision system's ability to detect daytime bicyclists. Engineers also enhanced nighttime detection of pedestrians.
Inside, the ES is the first Lexus product to offer Apple CarPlay connectivity.
It is also Amazon Alexa-enabled, letting drivers use natural language commands to control some functions, even remotely for car-to-home and home-to-car interaction. Onboard Wi-Fi from Verizon is part of an optional navigation system with a 12.3-inch dashboard display.
The Avalon and the ES are produced — on different assembly lines — at Toyota's plant in Georgetown, Ky.
The ES was the top-selling midsize luxury car in the U.S. last year, with 51,398 deliveries. But ES sales fell 12 percent in a segment that declined 7.9 percent as consumers migrated to light trucks. U.S. sales of the ES slipped 2.6 percent in the first quarter of this year.